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Flaxen-Haired Lady of Strops
Act 12: Minicus Thrax, Fresh Sword of Scots
© 2024 James LaFond
Night, Fishday, Fourth Day of Sepulcher
How could he not hate him for the death of his mates: the bold bigs, the spry twigs and wee gigs?
‘Is there something deep wrong in my heart?’
Minicus Thrax, once Orphan the Bun, then Tyke of Pipes, reached within for the voices of his slain, wounded, deserted and maimed mates, seeking some echo of their judgment. But what he found were the cheers of the Bawdy Sprites, those twelve whores, adoptive mothers to him, that declared him well delivered from the grim plight of pipes.
And these cheery calls, motherly all, not a bawdy jest, were seconded by the deep-chested roars of the drunken Scots of the Sword, men who, in place of the brotherhood of pipes, constituted a fatherhood of swords.
He had fought, foiled, cussed and stood up to the man towering above him, half-limping, half-swaggering across the lurid-lit Lenape Station, last of the line, across which boatmen ferried Patricians on their upward way to their estate, back again for senatorial grace, and where the Scots came at dusk, to pray for a glorious death to Saint Peter of Biers, receiver of the slain, on or near the eve of contest.
Something lovable brutish about the wrecker of his tiny punk nation, who then gave away a Saracen King’s ransom in glory to twelve whores, impressed itself upon Minicus, who, despite this, could not abandon his New York mobster penchant for the alley given name, “Sandman, you come here to pray against Rex Born, to seek favor in fight?”
The man grinned as they stepped down off the iron stairs onto the train platform, to the bawl of conductors shouting, “End of the Line, Lenape Station!” the great hissing of the engine to their left impressed Minicus as much as the rising of the moon behind them shining upon the river before them, his hellsong home far and away to the nighted right.
“Yes, it is an island I have inhabited all my life, with little such idea,” he muttered before his House leader had time to reply.
The man grinned down at him over that massive shoulder, and said from his dented face, “Just as I was to answer—so did you. I’m short of words. You more like My Bastard Brother. I known it all my life that I can’t snatch victory from him. I come to pray for a crossing, to not be sent to Hell. I dear fear burnin’ devils. Me knows Saint Peter can’t let this mug through the pearly gates. Yet mayhap he send his Boatman down Bier Pier to take me to purgatory. There I can fight into the eternal night ‘gainst shades reachin’ up fro ‘ell…”
The man stammered in his own half hope as Minicus realized that he was already more smart, by far, than the man who had done him such a singular honor.
He raised his little voice tall, and grabbed the crooked broke pinkie finger of that great big paw in his little hand, thrilled to feel they were both equally calloused, one by scrambling caper the other by sandy swordsmanship.
“Sandman,” and the man looked down again, a little wet in his bloodshot eyes under those battered brows, his eyes saying, ‘Yes, I listen from up here.’
“Sandman, I never had a daddy. Now you, set on your own death. Fight for me, so I don’t loose this show-and-tell hand come down to our hellsong alley to bring a mobby tyke into the light of the sands.”
The man knelt, trying and failing to make himself shorter than the lad as the crowd surged around them off to ferry docks and river walk taverns, some lingering at the celebrated sight of Max. He placed that small hand between the two great hands he owned and pleaded, “Ye too smart by half, talk like an altar boy what dices with crook tykes… be ye an angel, sent down to save my bungled soul?”
A spirit deep within him thought, ‘No,’ as the more shallow mind of the lad hoped, ‘Yes,’ so he answered sideways to befuddle the muddy minded ape of a man, “You came a monster turned hero, me a mobster turned tiro. [1] We not got angel in us, Sandy [2]. But I wager our future, that an angel has been set over us.”
They looked deep into each other’s blue eyes. Then, that strong voice of reason within him, that he understood was not within the man who was inhabited by a strong growl of battle, and Minicus spoke the risen words, “Sandy, I forgive ye the hurt to my kin, and thank ye for the aid you gave. You are my Hero—don’t die light… fight!”
‘This big bastard is about to cry!’ he realized.
Then he saw the battered mug contort, gather itself in some kind of inner fort, stood over him, twice his height, and saluted, fist to heart. West to east, hand to the risen moon, “Ye ‘ill be Chaplain some day over Scots, Bishop I would bet, hob a knob wit’ Our Pope in London! I will not go lightly to my bier—I swear.”
Minicus grinned upward, as if he were the father of some mighty lumbering child, as that monstrous mug split in boyish joy and smiled at the moon.
A crowd had gathered around them as a scuffle sounded down left, nearer the locomotive. Minicus was attired as a full Miniature Thrax, all but the helmet which would be completed on the Chaplain’s word. His belt, vest, dirk, boots and tartan all matched that of his Legate. 280 pounds and six and a half feet, towering over his almost four feet and 70 pounds, in like attire, did call for a second look, even from the few who would not know Max at a glance.
A workman waved a copy of Sands Gazette, “Max, I got coin on ye, Max!”
And there they were, like scribbling doves, the little Jap tykes. He recognized the Nurse one, who had attended to his broken mates, the cheek cut one as well. They were above on the coach rail, skulking around, poking their little pale, black-shocked heads between adult legs.
The man walked up to Max and bowed, and extended his copy of the Gazette, “Please, Max—yer my hero, my wife en kids too—we all look fer ye in the Gazettes.”
Max did not seem as he knew what to do. So a tall Japanese man, who was giving hand signals to the sketch tykes, stepped up next to Max and handed him an ink quill, then turned and bent his back like a desk, for Max to write on. The big man grinned, placed the Gazette on that thin Jap back and asked, “Ye name, mate?””
“Billy, Max, Billy Gear—ma boy Eddy thinks ye the best of all and ‘ill do fer ye Brother of Sarmatians.”
Max grinned, as he painstakingly misspelled “Fy Bilee,” and signed with a florid X, hooked on the top left with something akin to an “m”.
“Thanks, Jap—all da bes’ Billy,” said Max, humble like as he shook the wiry workman’s hand with his right and returned the Gazette with his left.
Then something beautiful beyond common perception pushed its way through the gawking crowd. The tallest pretty girl, with the longest, most amber blond hair they had—all of them—ever seen came to Max. Like some sacrificial heathen before a terrible god, she knelt, grabbed the great knee with her left hand and pointed to her tilted neck with the right, cross wise, towards the pace were domestic slaves were branded.
There was no brand.
She seemed mute under her flaxen hair. But then she made a voice of song that sounded like a furnace, like fire, looking longingly at the cresset behind the small crowd.
The meaning was clear and Max was now riding high on a wave of pride—more Japs moving about dressed in white under the cresset lit night—and he grinned, “Minicus, My Lad—a Chaplain ye will be, summonz-ing an angel fo me? What a class o’ lass! Here, Billy Gear, heat this medal in the cresset, please!”
Wenches were clapping, workmen smiling, a Patrician dame hissing, “Marcus, we must be gone from here.”
“Awe, Patty,” the rich man answered, “its such a queer sight—and look at these locust Japs! They record everything, hey, you, Jap, a sketch of my pretty dame please, the coin is good and gold.”
Minicus was shocked to wonder that the hand of the Jap man had flashed and two boy sketchers converged on the Patrician couple as three Jap girls, including the Nurse, who he quite liked, hovered about the flaxen-haired beauty of the brazen voice.
Max was standing proud, hands on hips, “Now, now, Girl, ye will be easy livin’ a slave to Max Born—like an angel ye be.”
The woman maintained her weird keening of fire sound as Billy Gear heated her brand, Japs scribbled, people gawked and gossiped, and some affair of blows occurred down the platform.
The conduct of the Japs was suspicious to the former mobster pipe, who laughed when Max observed, “Imagine runnin’ into scribblin’ Japs twice in a week—must be angelin’ afoot?”
The laugh of his little companion brought him about with a question written on his mangled mug.
“Sandy, your litigation with Rex is already in the Gazettes, and these spies were all about when we met—this is a racket, I tell you, a racket of sketches and words—they sellin’ us out to the world!”
The Jap man answered, “Blessing Upon House Thrax. Well Stated, Minicus. I am David Echigo, Kyoto Weekly, Editor at Large, New York Desk, In this very next edition Your Two Eminent swords shall be invited to Kyoto. This singing creature is a singular beauty, is she not, like a white lily to be saved from harm?”
Max growled, “Pleased ta meet ya, Jap—thought she an angel is all.”
David then backed away with expressive eye brows and began directing more Japs kids come up from the head of the train where the Patricians unloaded in a type of sign language that seemed to Minicus much like a cant of crooks.
And the Nurse one stood before him sketching the cynical expression on his face, almost eye to eye. He snatched out with a hand too quick for most eyes to follow and pulled back her sketchpad, which held a rough likeness of his face as he had seen it in Jude’s mirror a times. She then bowed and put out receiving hands, looked into his eyes, and said, in strange, honest tones, “Hero, please?”
He returned the pad as Max’s mighty hand patted him on the back, “Like sword like dirk—they will hang from ye arms, Lad o’ Scots!”
The brand was returned in Billy Gear’s hand, and Max instructed, “With a wench, on the muscle, under the ear, not to touch skull, more to back then to front, pressed even like this—”
The hiss of the brand did not change the girl’s throaty song, nor did she wince, Max commenting, “See, womenkind set such store in dey beauty dat they squirm less then men for fear to smudge they brand. Thank ye, Billy. Now come Lass, up wit ye pretty length o’ leg.”
The train behind went cold and the rumble to the west grew hot as Max turned the risen beauty around in his hands as she cooed like a dove in weird low song, for certain a retard of some kind.
-1. Initial gladiatorial rank, a trainee, or third ranker.
-2. Minicus Thrax would recall until late in life that this new nick of a name came to him on a soft instinct within, knowing that the gladiator was harrowed by guilt for many acts, including the wrecking of the Mob Pipes. He could never call the giant anything but Sandy henceforth.
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